The last thing that Detroit Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson wants to do is to get a leg up on the season.
Jackson is making a change in his swing, forcing himself to keep his front leg down. Jackson said the change would not be drastic, but he struck out 181 times last season as a leadoff hitter and both he and the Tigers are eager for a change.
"We are excited that he's getting rid of the leg kick," manager Jim Leyland said. "He knew he had to make a change and he had to want to change. We had to sell it to him."
Jackson came to camp early to work on his new swing and he's getting positive reviews from teammates who want to see him set the table more for the powerful Tigers lineup. Of Jackson's 591 regular season at-bats last season, the 181 strikeouts were third-most in the majors. He struck out 19 times in 41 at-bats in the playoffs..
Jackson batted .293 in his rookie 2010 season after being traded from the Yankees in a multi-player deal involving Curtis Granderson, but he slipped to .249 last year.
Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon started working with his young player to adjust the swing, and Jackson has spent extra time in the batting cage.
"It isn't a big switch, but if it helps, I will do it," Jackson said. "I need to get my timing down. I won't know much until I get to see how I do against live, real pitching, not just batting practice."
The swing is also not as sweeping, much shorter than last year. Making contact and getting on base is Jackson's challenge this year, Leyland said.
Jackson is a key to the Tigers lineup, which is loaded with power hitters but not a lot of speed. Jackson has 351 strikeouts in his first two years in the majors and only 49 steals. He's only been caught 11 times.
"I have a green light, but I am still learning how to steal bases," Jackson said. "I am learning how to read pitchers and I know I can't run sometimes because of who is at bat. There's still a lot to learn and I can't run whenever I want."
Notes: RHP Joaquin Benoit is throwing without pain, Leyland said. Benoit has been suffering from stiffness in the neck . Leyland said the Tigers will be spending extra time working on double plays this spring ... the Tigers agreed to terms with five players on contracts for the 2012 season: RHPs Collin Balester, Luis Marte and David Pauley, INF Danny Worth and OF Clete Thomas.